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The importance of getting game translation right

The phrase ‘all your base are belong to us’ is well known to veteran gamers, those who enjoy their internet memes and regular readers of our blog alike. The text comes from the opening cut-scene to the Sega Mega Drive game ‘Zero Wing’. The game translations were on a par with the famous 19th century Portuguese to English phrase book ‘English as she is spoke’ which contains among other laughable literal translations as ‘raining in jars’ and ‘The stone as roll not heap up not foam’. The translations in Zero Wing were so awful that they are perhaps the only reason why the game is now remembered, and indeed even revered.

Zero Wing unfortunately was not the only game released to the English speaking market with terrible translations. A quick Google will bring up dozens of sites with examples equally hilarious and tragic. Some of these have earned the games a kitsch status but this is certainly not a marketing strategy I would recommend to game developers!

I have a confession to make and that is that I am a massive fan of the J-RPG (Japanese Role Playing Game) genre. Games such as Final Fantasy and Zelda were a treasured part of my childhood. I loved the epic storylines, the often dubious morality system which blur the usual boundaries between ‘good guys and bad guys’ and the odd chap that I am I am just the sort of person who likes to spend hours killing the same monster over and over!

If there is one thing which, in my mind, spoils a game it is a bad translation. It doesn’t have to be a translation error of Zero Wing scale to spoil a game. The phrase ‘I want to be a blitz ball’ from Final Fantasy X, whose dialogue was more or less competently translated, stands out. Even if the translation is technically competent very often the conversion of the dialogue is, well, cringe-worthy! It doesn’t sound as fluid or believable as it does in the original language.

As a huge fan of games in general and RPG’s in particular I cannot stress enough how important to us the consumer it is that developers take their translations seriously. RPG’s in particular with their long and involved plots, technology trees and massive number of unique items make for a challenging translation project, which makes it all the more important that a reputable translation company is employed that understands the industry and has a true passion for language.

Lingua Translations offers a Game Translation service and only employs those translators who have extensive experience of video game translation, who have a genuine passion for gaming and who specialise in their particular genre. Lingua Translations has that necessary passion for language and a passion for getting things right that can make the difference between a modern classic and a game which goes straight to the bargain bin! We will work with you to ensure that your game is a success and is remembered for all the right reasons and that your customers, no matter what language they speak, have the same fluid and immersive gaming experience!

by Scot Jenkins

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About Sharon Stephens

Sharon Stephens is Operations Director of Lingua Translation. With a First Class Honours Degree in Translation and a University Lecturer in Translation (Masters), she is a self confessed language geek! Bringing the academic principles of translation and business together Sharon offers a quality-driven and needs centric translation and interpreting service - like no other.

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